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Stanford’s Move to Trial or Treatment Argued in Texas Court

Indicted Financier R. Allen Stanford
Indicted financier R. Allen Stanford, accused of leading a $7 billion investment fraud scheme, arrives for a hearing at the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Houston on Jan. 6, 2011. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg

R. Allen Stanford, the indicted Texas financier claiming he’s mentally unfit to stand trial next month, failed every test designed to expose fakers, a government psychologist testified.

“When it comes to the amnesia, I’m convinced that complaint is malingered,” Dr. Robert E. Cochrane, a staff psychologist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ medical center in Butner, North Carolina, said today at a hearing in federal court in Houston.

Depending on a ruling by U.S. District Judge David Hittner, Stanford, 61, will undergo further treatment or face a trial Jan. 23 on charges of running a Ponzi scheme that cost investors more than $7 billion and might put him prison for the rest of his life. Cochrane was the government’s only witness.

Stanford claims he can’t recall family vacations, his business dealings or romantic encounters with women because “59 years were stolen” by a jailhouse beating and anxiety drugs, the government said in court papers. The government says he is faking.

Stanford arrived in court today shackled, looking thin and alert in green prison clothes. He smiled at family members in the back of the courtroom after greeting his attorney and the lead prosecutor, saying softly, “Good Christmas.”

On every neuropsychological test designed to unmask feigning, “Mr. Stanford failed,” Cochrane said, “and that was pretty strong evidence he was exaggerating the memory loss.”

Rare Condition

The claim of complete retrograde amnesia, loss of the memory of things that happened before the event that caused it, is “remarkable” because the condition is so rare, the doctor said.

“It happens so infrequently it’s hardly documented in the medical literature,” he said.

He said Stanford’s purported amnesia didn’t fit the pattern, because his memory was normal immediately after the jailhouse beating that his lawyers say caused the condition, then supposedly deteriorated when he arrived at the medical center more than a year later.

“ If the head injury was the source of his amnesia, how could he remember then and not now?” Cochrane asked. “You have amnesia right after the head injury, not after a delay.”

Stanford, the doctor said, performed so poorly on certain memory tests that “mentally retarded children did much better” on them.

‘Cocktail of Medications’

Ali R. Fazel, one of Stanford’s attorneys, said in a filing before the hearing that doctors’ testimony will show the Texas financier suffered a traumatic brain injury in jail made worse by “the cocktail of medications” administered in the federal lockup.

“He didn’t blow those tests!” Richard Pollock, a neuropsychologist who examined Stanford for his defense team, told Hittner. Pollock said test results the government claims show Stanford is faking amnesia are “much ado about nothing.”

“Those tests have the same shortcomings as a polygraph,” Pollock testified. “They can’t tell you if somebody is lying or not. They can tell you about the effort level and symptom validity.”

When Pollock tested Stanford upon his return to Houston last month, that round of tests “said there’s no malingering whatsoever,” Pollock testified. “He is definitely having difficulty trying to express his thoughts and prior knowledge effectively.”

Cognitive Disorder

Pollock diagnosed Stanford with cognitive disorder, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the assault and subsequent over medication.

“At this point in time, I don’t think he could competently help you prepare for trial,” Pollock told Fazel. “The main reason is the amnesia” and a brain injury that’s left Stanford unable to concentrate and “avoid going down dead end roads and wasting a lot of time.”

Stanford’s lawyers filed papers asking the judge to delay the trial until at least the end of April to let Stanford continue to recover and give his lawyers additional time to prepare.

Defense Filing

Hittner today ruled that Stanford’s former lawyer and mother, listed as witnesses by the defense, won’t be allowed to testify.

The judge said he’ll hear from “only the treating doctors” who can address Stanford’s ability to proceed to trial.

Stanford has been imprisoned as a flight risk since his June 2009 indictment on charges of defrauding investors through a scheme built on allegedly bogus certificates of deposit at Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.

Prosecutors say Stanford skimmed more than $1 billion of investor funds to acquire fleet of jets and yachts, multiple mansions and a private Caribbean island, as well as to give money to women with whom he had children.

Hittner delayed Stanford’s trial, first set for last January, after three doctors testified that the financier was incapable of assisting in his defense because of his drug dependency and potential effects from the head injury.

The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

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